Jaguars' success creates quandary for 'The Good Place'

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QB Blake Bortles and the Jaguars have been a running joke on the NBC show "The Good Place."

Writer and producer Joe Mande has a dilemma for Season 3 of The Good Place, an NBC comedy about the afterlife and people who are bad who want to become good. 

"What do we do now that the Jaguars are good?" he asked. 

One of the show's biggest punchlines — which pokes fun at the Jacksonville Jaguars and quarterback Blake Bortles — has become a real-life evolution from bad to good.

The 11-6 Jaguars picked up their first NFL playoff win since 2007 last weekend, dispatching the Buffalo Bills 10-3. Bortles -- a notorious underachiever since being the No. 3 pick in the 2014 draft -- was the first quarterback in nearly two decades to rush for more yards (88) than pass (87) in the victory. Jacksonville faces the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC divisional-round playoff at 1:05 p.m. ET on Sunday in Pittsburgh.

"It's been very funny, because the team has been the butt of all jokes on the show for two years, and now suddenly here they are winning a playoff game on the back of Blake Bortles," Mande told USA TODAY Sports by phone on Thursday.

In a case of bad timing, The Good Place returned to NBC last week with a scene in which Ted Danson's character, Michael, says: "Jaguars games are the only ones televised in the Bad Place because THEY SUCK."

Mande said while he was writing the first two seasons, he had just finished doing stand-up comedy shows in Jacksonville, which fueled his inspiration for the city and the team. He pondered the funniest contrast for the Jason Mendoza character, played by Manny Jacinto. On the show, Jason at first tried to convince everyone he was a Buddhist monk who had taken a vow of silence.

"We thought, how about we make him a dirtbag from Florida who is an entrepreneur, a competitive dancer and a die-hard fan of this doomed franchise," Mande said. Mendoza's dopey character is constantly ripped for his affection for the Jags and Bortles.   

Mande said a Jags official told him Bortles is "aware" of the jokes about him.

The Jaguars have had a "great sense of humor about it," Mande said, and the team invited Mande and Jacinto to last week's game against the Bills. Jacinto — decked out in Jaguars gear — got into character by bouncing around the sideline.

"(Jacinto) was running around like a dumbass," Mande said. "It was cool seeing how many people at the game recognized (Jacinto), because his optimism is very representative of their fanbase." 

In one of The Good Life scenes, Jacinto's character, Jason, asks Ted Danson's character, Michael, if the Jaguars will ever win the Super Bowl. Michael responds, "Jason, I can’t predict the future. But no. They won’t."

Should the Jags continue to rewrite history, Mande said he would be at the Super Bowl parade. While he is happy to be wrong in this case, Mande said there's one prediction he figures will stick. 

"We mentioned the Cleveland Browns sucking in Season One," he said, chuckling. "I don't expect that to change." 

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